NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Keith West knew this day would come. For the past four seasons, the Cal State Northridge women's soccer head coach hardly had to bat an eye when deciding on a starting goalkeeper each match. Such is the luxury of having the school's all-time leader in wins and shutouts, Cynthia Jacobo.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the 2013 season: Jacobo is gone. Her eligibility is exhausted and she will not be manning the posts for the Matadors ever again. And although the prospect of not knowing who will play that important position may scare some head coaches, West is excited to see how the competition plays out.
West has a solid group of contenders looking to fill those shoes. He also has assistant coach Juan Plascencia, the team's goalkeeping coach who enters his 10th season with the program.
"We have five goalkeepers coming in this year, so it should make for some great competition in practices," Plascencia said. "Having all these new players is both nerve-wracking, because of the importance of the position, and exciting, because of all the new personnel. My challenge is to make sure that our training sessions improve the growth of all the keepers in camp."
Among the group, Cynthia Tafoya brings in some playing experience having served as Jacobo's back-up in 2012. A redshirt sophomore from Sherman Oaks, Calif., Tafoya appeared in two games in 2012.
In her third season with the squad, Tafoya brings experience and familiarity to Northridge, traits not lost on West.
"I think Cynthia has a definite advantage having competed last season and in the spring for us," Plascencia added. "That being said, she will have to go out there and prove herself and compete every day."
The Matadors bring four newcomers to camp looking to challenge Tafoya for minutes in net: freshmen Jovani McCaskill, Rebecca Harper, Roxy Teichman and Logan Byam-Taylor. All bring ample experience and success from their club and high school careers.
McCaskill is from Chula Vista, Calif., and played her club ball for San Diego United. According to West, McCaskill, the daughter of a high school basketball coach, brings intensity and intelligence to the Matadors.
On the pitch, McCaskill earned All-Mesa League First Team honors following her junior and senior seasons. She was also a San Diego Union-Tribune All-Academic selection following her senior year after her side captured the 2013 CIF Championship.
"Jovani is a gifted athlete who has all the tools to flourish in Division I soccer," West explained. "She has great range and size and is adept at distributing the ball and keeping her defense aligned properly."
Harper comes to the San Fernando Valley from Honolulu. She played her club ball for Leahi Premier and is another talented athlete that will add to competition in training camp. With her club team, Leahi 95 Premier, Harper captured the Girls U-18 US Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championship this past June.
At Maryknoll High School, Harper was named a 2012 ILH Honorable Mention and made the Second Team in 2013. The Spartans also named her Maryknoll High School's Most Inspirational Athlete following her senior year.
"Rebecca is a big, strong and physical goalkeeper," West added. "She is very quick for her size and plays with an aggressive mentality. She will certainly be competing for minutes early on in her career."
Teichman hails from Alamo, Calif., and played her club ball for the San Juan Mustangs.
Byam-Taylor is a local product that grew up in Valencia, Calif., and played club ball for the Valley United Stars. At West Ranch High School, she was named the Team MVP and Most Inspirational player. According to West, both add solid depth to the position.
"Logan is someone we have known about for a long time and has great potential and upside at the position," West said.
As an added benefit, the Matadors boast one of the top defenses in the Big West Conference. Chloe McDaniel, the 2012 Big West Defensive Player of the Year, returns to anchor the center of the defensive line and Leandra Walker, Wendy Warner and a combination of returning players and newcomers should help CSUN continue that trend.
"A good defensive line always helps a goalkeeper," Plascencia said. "Some of the best goalkeepers in the world don't always have to come up with the tremendous save because of the defense they have in front of them."
Despite the upheaval around one of the most important positions on the pitch, West is calm and confident about the goalkeeping group he has for 2013. Uncertainty can be a good thing. The 2009 season provided a similar situation and looked how that turned out.
2013 Women's Soccer Previews: